More than 600 skilled nursing workers may be owed back wages across 25 Massachusetts facilities in 21 communities, owned by local operator Next Step Healthcare.
The Department of Labor (DOL) filed a complaint in federal court alleging that various nursing home organizations intentionally withheld overtime wages for at least 624 employees, and failed to maintain accurate employment records.
The action follows an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division looking into the pay practices of Next Step and affiliated entities that jointly operated or managed its facilities, along with Next Step co-owners Damian Dell’Anno and William Stephan.
Next Step allegedly violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to pay employees all wages due at each employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked, and failing to pay employees the required overtime rate, over 40 hours each work week.
“The U.S. Department of Labor will not tolerate employers who willfully deny their employees their hard-earned wages and violate the Fair Labor Standards Act,” Regional Solicitor of Labor Maia Fisher said in a statement. “This litigation shows that we will enforce the law vigorously to make sure workers are paid properly for all the compensable hours that they work.”
Skilled Nursing News reached out to Next Step, but comment wasn’t available at the time of publication.
The Massachusetts provider also allegedly deducted 30 minutes from employee hours worked for meal breaks, only to have staff work through those breaks.
Unpaid regular rate and overtime wages earned between Sept. 27, 2018 and Sept. 14, 2021 will be sought by the DOL, along with liquidated damages equal to the amount of wages found to be owed. DOL’s action also restrains Next Step from committing future violations of the FLSA overtime and recordkeeping provisions.
“Denying full wages, including overtime, to people who provide skilled nursing services to those in need in our communities makes it harder for these workers to care for themselves and their families,” Wage and Hour Division District Director Carlos Matos said in a statement.
“Deliberately shortchanging employees’ wages, as alleged in this case, is truly unfair and illegal, and can have very costly consequences for employers who mistakenly believe they can avoid their legal responsibilities.”
On a national scale, the DOL recovered nearly $32 million in back wages for 2023, covering more than 24,000 health care workers in almost 2,500 compliance actions. The agency also assessed employers in the health care industry more than $2 million in civil monetary penalties, DOL said in a statement.